14 May 2013
WOLSEY HALL OXFORD: LEADERS IN HOMESCHOOLING
Wolsey Hall Oxford is a home study college based in Oxford, England. We’ve been helping students in Malaysia and worldwide gain qualifications since 1894, and well over 750,000 have done so. Many have gone on to higher education or improved their career prospects as a result.Today we offer homeschooling courses for children of 11- 18 years,for the Cambridge International GCSE (IGCSE)and A Levels.
Our aims are:
- to provide caring support forour students throughout their home study courses,
- to equip our students with the skills necessary not just to gain good exam results but to succeed in school, work, and life.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The Wolsey Hall system of learning has been developed over many years. It is a carefully balanced mix of course textbooks and online learning. Our state-of-the-art learning platform contains a range of resources which complement the course books, and serves as the primary means of communication between student and tutor.
We invite parents to become online observers of their child’s course. This means they’re linked to their child’s course via the online system.They have full access to the resources there,and to the feedback their child is getting from his/her tutors.
WHAT’S INCLUDED IN A WOLSEY HALL COURSE?
Our courses include:
- Cambridge-endorsed course books,
- Access to our online learning platform, including web links and videos,
- Full support from tutors, with assignments returned within 5 days,
- Access to tutors via email and Skype,
- A Course Manager who will monitor your child’s progress continuously,
- Advice from our Directors of Studies within 24 hours.
WHAT CAN MY CHILD STUDY?
Wolsey Hall offers courses for families wanting their children to complete the Cambridge International GCSE (IGCSE) or A-level qualifications. We also offer courses for children aged 11-14 which prepare them to start on their IGCSE courses.
Visit http://wolseyhalloxford.org.uk/, or email our Director of Studies, Peter Newell (firstname.lastname@example.org).
15 March 2012
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Homeschooling Achievers.
Homeschooler Petrina Phua was 17 years old when she stepped into a learning centre to prepare for her IGCSE O Level examinations. Last year this talented ex-homeschooler and concert pianist scored straight As in all 8 subjects (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Math, Ad Math, Accounts, English (1st language) and Bahasa Malaysia (A-Star). Petrina writes about her homeschooling experience and what it was like to transition to an examination year student.
VERY OFTEN, I WOULD HAVE PEOPLE COMING UP TO ME and ask “What’s homeschooling like? Do you feel as if you’ve been deprived of a normal schooling life?” Looking back at my 8 years of homeschooling experience, I can confidently say that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Homeschooling really broke down the walls of structure that schools have. It gave me the liberty and time to explore and learn many different things at my own pace.
For instance, I was able to pick up many instruments, go for art classes, play different kinds of sports and study at the same time. Through homeschooling, I was able to explore all these things and pick up the skills that I had interest in. And so, I felt that as a child I was given a vast exposure to discover myself.
MY CLASSROOM FOLLOWED ME
I remember that there were days when I would do nothing but music. There were times when I would draw a lot and also, times when my brothers and I played a lot. I don’t remember my homeschooling being wholly academic. In fact, there were instances when my mom would take us to the KL Library and we would spend the day poring over books. We had excursions to the zoo and to bread-making factories with other homeschooling families. There was no physical classroom for me. I felt that everywhere I went, my classroom followed me! I would never ever trade my homeschooling experience for anything else.
Having said all these, I was really excited when I discovered that I was going to be enrolled in an O-Levels center. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a group of friends I could call my classmates, a group I could identify with and see every day, not just once a month. I felt that after being homeschooled for so long, it was time to move on to something different. I felt really thrilled to be able to enter a classroom setting.
A DIFFERENT PHASE
In Frontier Learning Centre, I met many new friends and finally had a physical classroom! I even had different teachers who taught me and the opportunity to learn new subjects that were very alien to me. Among these subjects were Physics, Economics, Accounts, Additional Mathematics and Chemistry. And for the first time in my life, I had a chance to see where I stood when my work was graded by teachers in an actual classroom setting. It was quite intimidating at first as learning in a group was definitely a different experience for me.
My 18 months in FLC was equally as enjoyable as my years of homeschooling. FLC has given me friends and great memories. It opened up new doors for me which took learning to a new level. I felt that studying in the center has helped me get accustomed to what it would be like when I moved on to college. I was able to do projects with my classmates and even science experiments in a lab. These were things that I couldn’t do while I was homeschooling and so, it was very fulfilling.
IT’S THE JOURNEY, NOT THE RESULTS
Preparing for the O-Levels exam was another different experience. I wouldn’t say it was a good experience, but neither will I call it bad – it was altogether a whole new phase! Mainly it was because it would be the first major exam my classmates and I had ever prepared for. The reality of it all was quite daunting because it appeared that our future literally depended on how well we performed in the forthcoming exams. Well, at least that was what went on at the back of my mind.
However, after sitting for my O-Levels I learnt that the end results didn’t really matter that much. Once the moment was over, and as time passed, my results didn’t really play as sweetly in my ears as they did the first time I obtained them. The thing that really left a great impact on me was the process. The journey that I took to get there was more meaningful to me than the exam results themselves. Indeed, I really owe everything that I’ve gained to FLC and I thank my dedicated and loving teachers for all they have done.
Pix: Petrina who is presently sitting for her A Levels, poses with her parents Alan and Katherine Phua. Not in the picture are her 2 brothers – Philip (19), & Phileon (14). The Phua Family worships at Full Gospel Assembly in KL.
28 March 2011
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Homeschooler Profile.
Homeschooler Cherish Lo was one of only four students to be awarded full scholarship to pursue her A Levels at Alice Smith International School in Kuala Lumpur. Her remarkable achievement is another one in a string of achievements by Malaysian homeschoolers, and one that is mirrored among homeschoolers abroad. Her mother Sally concludes with Part Two of the story of her daughter’s transition from home-educated to top scholar.
NURTURING A CONFIDENT CHILD
AS CHERISH’S MOTHER, THE MAJOR PART OF HOMESCHOOLING was my responsibility. I was not a rigid, structured teacher; I liked variety and spontaneity so we learned whatever came our way. Dad was the structured one and he taught her Math – systematically, always telling her to practise, practise, practise. The point is, do what you know and let your child enjoy learning along with you.
When my daughter was 10, I went back to work and Dad was left to teach her at home. That meant more Math! I did very little with Cherish then, but she was already reading a lot at her age. Later when we realised she needed more structured learning, we enrolled her for IGCSE O Level in April 2009 for an 18-month course. For the first time in her life, she was exposed to Accounts, Business Studies, Economics and Additional Math. She had signed up for 7 subjects in all, including English (First Language), English Literature and Math, but 5 months before her exams, she took one more subject, Physics. At the time we were advised that to qualify for a scholarship, she needed to have 8As.
We prayed Cherish through the decision, and she applied herself to study diligently. The rest as they say, is history. She did very well and obtained 8As in her IGCSE O Level exams and won four awards (Top In Malaysia for Business Studies; Top In Malaysia for English First Language; High Achievement for English Literature, and first place for Best Across Eight Cambridge IGCSEs).
ALL KINDS OF EXPOSURE
Prior to enrolling Cherish in an IGCSE tuition center, there was a 3-year gap in her education due to crises in the family. My father suffered multiple strokes and my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent spinal surgery. Since all I did for Cherish was English while her dad taught Math, you could see why our daughter’s homeschool was interrupted.
In the past we exposed Cherish to all sorts of training courses we felt were appropriate to help open up her mind. She didn’t mind that some of the courses were for adults, for she understood that it was up to her to learn whatever she could. But academically, the IGCSE was the very first time she was subjected to formal studies. Her initial discomfort at being somehow ‘less’ than the regular kids who went to ‘normal’ schools was soon dispelled when she faced them in the battleground of interschool competitions.
At 16, she and her team beat older students from a number of universities and colleges in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. In one particular competition, the team had to submit a business proposal for a home for the elderly and present it before a panel of judges.
Cherish had never done a business proposal before, but she and her friends soon found out how (homeschooling kids have a knack for finding things out for themselves!). The judges were so impressed with her maturity and empathy for the elderly that one of them personally congratulated her and her team mates saying that their parents should be very proud of them (and we certainly were!).
FROM O TO A LEVELS AT ALICE SMITH
Today my daughter Cherish is doing her A Levels at the Alice Smith International School. She received a full scholarship that covered food, travel, and purchase of books, exams fees as well as some school trips. When we found out that she was one of only four recipients of the scholarship, we were in a daze for a week! We did not expect it at all, and indeed, it was the Lord who provided for all of our needs.
(Photo: A beaming Cherish receives her award from Mr John Guy, University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), at Holiday Villa on 22 February,2011)
Alice Smith put prospective students through a computer-based entrance exam to assess their suitability but it was not just bright students they were looking for. We were told they also wanted confident young students with leadership potential. Students had to be interviewed by the Principal, Vice-Principal, and Head of 6th Form. In a separate room, another Vice-Principal (head of Pastoral Care) was interviewing me, and he told me that this interview would decide if a child would make the cut. They liked what they saw and heard, and 2 days later, I had confirmation that Cherish was accepted. She was offered a place in Alice Smith on January 2011, which was a term late (their term starts in September) but she is getting through each day, by God’s grace.
Looking back, I am glad that the Lord prepared the way for Cherish to get her scholarship through all the things she was involved in or exposed to during her growing up years. All the courses and competitions in which Cherish participated were documented (it was a thick file) and we included these with her scholarship application. She had to submit a 350-word personal essay – but what can you say in 350 words? – so that thick appendix did the trick!
KEEP ON PRESSING ON
Many moms often ask how a homeschooled kid could do so well. I always reply, how could they not do well, when they are given an environment to bloom naturally? Did I have my doubts? Plenty. Every Monday, as they say! 20 years ago when we were in New Zealand making the decision to homeschool we had the same questions, half-wanting and half-believing if it could be so, and yet it has come true for us.
Once you make a decision, stick to it, and don’t panic. Homeschoolers will always be in the minority, but press on, for other homeschoolers are walking with you! Besides, would you rather trust God for your children’s education or do you prefer to trust the government to do it for you? Keep on giving your children space, opportunity, and exposure, and eventually their God-given talent will emerge. Remember God is with us all. He loves our kids, and he will help us in our weakness and frailty.
Two other homeschoolers received awards along with Cherish as well. They were, Hans Eli Sha Ho, who was Top In Malaysia for Accounting, and Wong Jian Eu who received an award for High Achievement for History
Related stories on the achievements of other young Malaysian homeschoolers
14-year old Balakrishna’s love for physics pays off
They said, by then 18-year old Rachel Spoelman, who has sometimes been identified as a Malaysian by her friends
Passing the Test, by Jian Eu about his transition from homeschool to formal education
According to his ability about ADHD/special needs child Jianwen who goes to college.
Reading to learn, is straight A’s student Brian Tan’s story
The first days of spring, is Ethan Tan’s journey from eclectic homeschooler to scholarship student at Hardin-Simmons, Texas
A mother’s reflection on 3 boys’ education pathways, From homeschool to O Level
1 December 2010
Quite a few people have been asking about IGCSE and how a homeschooler can sit for these exams. Thanks to a homeschooling mom, I’ve uploaded a simple FAQ that should help you understand what your homeschooler has to do if he or she is thinking of next steps after high school. Go to our RESOURCES tab and click on Homeschool and IGCSE.
7 April 2010
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Homeschooler Profile.
More and more homeschoolers in the country are turning to O Level as the preferred pathway to college and tertiary education. 17-year old Brian Tan sat for his exams last November and outshone many of his peers. The point is not that Brian did well, but that homeschool is no obstacle to education excellence. Above all, it also demonstrates that whatever homeschool methodology/philosophy or curriculum one subscribes to, being educated at home provides a child the necessary space for nurturing right attitude and inculcating a reading habit, both of which are foundational to future success. A big thanks to Brian and his parents Boon Long and Cynthia who also added their two-sens to the Q&A regarding exam preparation.
Tell us about yourself and your homeschooling experience.
My name is Brian and I will be 18 this August. I have been homeschooling since Standard 5, i.e. 11 years old.
I liked homeschooling as there was flexibility in my schedule. It was always a holiday during my birthday and my family took holidays during non-school holidays, avoiding peak periods. I’ve enjoyed homeschooling which has made education fun. Spending loads of time with my younger brother and parents, I’ve become close to them and my parents are always at hand when I need advice.
Being an art and reading enthusiast since young, I used much of the break time between studies to draw (by hand and on the computer) and to read. I was read to (when younger) and I read a lot of good literature as part of my homeschooling. I also studied at my own pace.
Did you feel left out socially?
I have been involved in many activities that allowed me to socialise. There was Sunday School, my church Care Group, a Junior Public Speaking Club, Art classes, ice skating classes and badminton (both formal training and socially). I’ve been and am still actively involved in Royal Rangers (an international Christian uniformed group) with lots of activities including camping, hiking, canoeing, first-aid, Christian Service, Community service, various hobbies and opportunities for leadership. At 13, I joined the church Youth Group. I also helped in Sunday School.
When I was 15+, I attended a tuition centre for about a year to prepare for my O level and IGCSE. I also enjoyed the socialisation and learned more of the problems and issues faced by my peers. I also made friends in my church Bible Knowledge classes that I attended for 2 years.
Why O Level, and not SAT?
My parents say that the O Level exam is more widely recognised especially in Commonwealth countries. Local private universities normally advertise a “minimum of 5 O Level credits” as entrance requirement. SAT is mainly recognised for entry into US universities but they also accept O Level qualifications.
How many subjects did you sit for and how did you prepare for your exams?
I sat for a total of 7 subjects: Art, and Bible Knowledge (O level); and Math, English, English Literature, Business Studies and Economics (IGCSE). You could say preparation for English and English Literature began ever since I homeschooled using the Sonlight curriculum and some Singapore workbooks. I switched to IGCSE materials in Forms 4 and 5.
I’ve always used Singapore Math, but in my secondary years I switched to Counts 1-5 and the IGCSE text. For Business Studies and Economics, I started preparation when I enrolled in a tuition centre for about a year.
Prior to the Bible Knowledge exam, I attended my church weekly Bible Knowledge classes for 2 years. The classes actually prepare students for the SPM Bible Knowledge paper but I stayed because it was quite close to the O Level syllabus – Luke & Acts. For Art, I had a teacher for a year who helped me prepare for O Level Art.
I was in the tuition centre until the last 4 – 5 months before my exams. I consolidated my preparation at home by attempting a lot of past year exam papers, read examiners’ reports and comments to get a good view of what the examiners look for.
Your results came out early this year in January. So how did you do, and what’s your next step?
I obtained 7As. In the IGCSE, I obtained As for Business Studies and Economics and A*s for Maths, English and English Literature. In the O level exam (where A*s are not awarded), I obtained As for Art and Religious Knowledge.
My next step is to enrol at the One Academy in Bandar Sunway to pursue my passion in Creative Arts and Design. I’ll be doing a Diploma course in either Multimedia or Animation before going to one of their affiliated overseas universities for a degree.
How would you advise other homeschoolers to prepare themselves for their exams?
O Level /IGCSE normally require 2 years of preparation. I would recommend some tuition classes especially in subjects one is weak at, or where parents are unable to help. The 2 years could consist of a mixed bag of home school and tuition classes.
The tuition classes will also be a good transition from homeschooling to college life as one will be exposed to group discussions and group dynamics.
Finally, intensive practices of O level/IGCSE past year question papers, reading mark schemes, examiner comments and reports a few months before the exams help a lot.
However, homeschoolers should get a good grounding prior to the last 2 years before sitting for the O level /IGCSE.
Pre-O level/IGCSE preparation:
- For Maths/Add Maths, a good program is Singapore Maths from Primary until Form 3 (e.g. Singapore Maths Counts 1-3 or other Singapore Maths texts).
- For the Sciences (Biology/Physics/Chemistry), any Primary program will do but try to do Singapore Science for Forms 1 and 2 or the UK’s equivalent (Cambridge Core Bio/Physics/Chemistry).
- For English/Literature/History, the preparation program is a lot more flexible. Sonlight’s Core curriculum is excellent.
- For Economics and Business which are generally study subjects, homeschoolers should not find these a problem if they’ve acquired good reading/comprehension skills.
- For O level Bible Knowledge, do attend, if available (and normally free of charge) BK classes for SPM students conducted by churches. Syllabus is 90% similar.
Generally, a good base in homeschooling – “Learn to read and then read to learn” – will give homeschoolers the ability to learn independently in the later years, with some guidance from parents/tuition teachers.
Top Pix: Brian holds forth at a debate
Bottom Pix: Brian (left), Mom Cynthia (centre), and younger brother Kevin (right) agree that homeschooling is fun
Related posts on homeschoolers and O Level
…….and a related post on developing a reading culture at home
30 March 2010
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Examinations.
On 22 March, we began our series on college-bound homeschoolers with observations by a homeschooling mom Swee Bin on her son’s experience with public exams. In this post her 17-year old son Jian Eu shares how he made the transition to formal education at a tuition centre in preparation for IGCSE O Level exams.
AFTER BEING HOMESCHOOLED FOR FIVE AND A HALF YEARS I left home and enrolled in a centre to do my IGCSE. I went to two centres, the first one through the latter half of 2008 and the second one throughout 2009.
I am seventeen this year. I took my exams last November at age sixteen. I did quite well too.
The two centres I went to were very different. The first centre was much more relaxed and much smaller, only about 15 students most of whom were homeschoolers. The second centre I went to had more than 130 students, only two of whom were homeschoolers, and was run much more like a school. This is the centre that I will be writing about.
Being a homeschooler in such an environment made me different. I came from a different background and I was unused to being in a school. There was quite a lot of pressure. Not only was there the pressure of the exams, but some of the moms of other school kids were constantly comparing and sizing me up! One of the moms gossiped about the only two homeschoolers at the school, my friend and I: “They may have done well in their mid-year exams but success in life is only 30% academic and 70% social.”
There is a popular conception that homeschoolers are social misfits. I may have been different from my classmates but we got along fine. One of my classmates told me, “Eh, I thought homeschoolers are supposed to be like weird.” On a side note, I have learned from my experience that weird people, people who don’t quite fit in, can be found among both homeschoolers and schoolers.
Going to school was a very different experience for me. My homeschool had been very relaxed. We didn’t follow any curriculum and we were left to pursue whatever we were interested in. Now I had to study according to a timetable, from a pre-set syllabus!
Getting used to the school hours was hell; I never quite got used to it. Every day I would try to escape home early. School hours were ridiculous, eight hours per day. The worst part was that half of the time we didn’t have any classes on!
I was one of the top students in class but I never got along very well with the teachers. I think homeschooling had given me a confidence to speak out if I felt something was wrong. As a result, over the year, I have had a one-on-one discussion of my behaviour with one of my teachers three times.
Homeschooling had given me the backbone to discuss my differences with teachers and not shrink away. I may not have been chummy with the teachers but I respect them. They are good teachers. The quality of their teaching is good.
Looking back, I think my IGCSE experience was the baptism of fire for my homeschool. All the rhetoric about me having time to develop was tested. The test was not just a test in academics but in character. My exam results came out in January this year. I passed. Not just with C’s and B’s but with 4 A*’s and one A.
Photo: Jian Eu (pictured with sister Jian Lin) is happy that he can have his, uhm, chocolate ice-cream and eat it too!
If you want to know how other homeschoolers moved on from home to formal education, read their stories here:
22 March 2010
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Examinations.
One of the big questions about homeschooling is, “what next?” For most of us whose children have been educated at home, SAT and O Level have been the way forward, if college is where they’re heading, that is. However, although SAT is a legitimate college entry pathway, more and more, IGCSE O Level has become the preferred option.
In the coming days, you will be reading about homeschoolers who went from wading pool to the deep end of IGCSE exams. Today’s post features homeschooling mom Swee Bin who shares how her son’s unconventional education experience was no obstacle to doing well in exams.
One did the AOP programe after leaving school in early primary. One did Sonlight and assorted Singapore books, also after leaving school in early primary. My son did a mixture – private school for Std One, AOP centre for next two years, came home to unschooling for 6 years.
In June-July 2008, all three signed up at a tutorial centre to prepare for the IGCSE. In January 2009, my son and his best friend (the AOP one) enrolled in Sirius Scholar, a centre/school newly opened in USJ to prepare students from Form 1-5 for the IGCSE. The Sonlight one opted to study for the exam with the help of his parents for most of 2009.
The Nov 2009 IGCSE results were released in January. My son did well, as did two other homeschoolers. The three of them scored straight As, with quite a few A-Stars thrown in to boot.
What struck me about the three boys was how they embraced the learning. Their minds and hearts were ready. There was real interest in the material. That was nice to see. For my son and his friend, the school principal and English teacher was most struck by their general knowledge and reading habit. Their classmates too noticed how they seemed to “know so much” or “they know everything.”
To my mind, these boys were prepared in the basics – language (English) was strong (which also means reading/comprehension skills) and math skills were in place. These enabled them to handle specialised content, including material they had not handled before. Eg, physics, chemistry and additional math. The starting months were tough as they grappled with the many gaps (total zeros, knowledge-wise) but, they quickly overcame these.
All three also attacked past year papers with a real earnest (an excellent website is freeexampapers.com which comes complete with marking schemes). Between my son and his best friend, they did more past year papers than their 9 other classmates combined. I had told my son to think of kungfu: you may know the moves but will only be good if you fight and get to practise what you know. Every exam question is like an opponent’s blow – left, right, centre, you don’t know how the blows will come. But, you’ve got to deal with them. And, the more blows you deal with, the better you become. He was quite challenged by the questions. The harder, the better.
I remember him sitting in front of the notebook, intently working through the online question papers. Then, excitedly checking his answers. The more he did, the more confident he became. The more confident he became, the more questions he wanted to do. He would burst out with his score, with a big grin.
On his school experience, “one year is enough.” He didn’t like the regimentation of time; he didn’t like having to do things he had no interest in; he felt much of the school day was a waste of time. He’s glad though for the two new good friends he’s made during his year there and for the two excellent teachers he had.
Having achieved his results, he feels the value – especially when he went recently for some interviews for part-time jobs (he is now a waiter in a noodle shop). He is spending this year and maybe next to discover more of himself. He has just turned 17. There is still so much time and we certainly prefer him to go out and explore the world a bit before he thinks about college.
A qualifier before I end. We’ve always known that our son was academic-minded, with the capacity to study. Hence, taking the education pathway he did was right for him. Not all children are academically inclined, in my humble opinion. As their parents and stewards, we ought to recognize that and guide them where their God-given gifts and strengths lie. It does take all types to make the world!
If this post was helpful, you might be interested in the following: